A Team announced today
With the A team party to tour West Indies announced at midday, speculation is growing as to the make up of the squad, and the identity of the captain in particular. The smart money would seem to be on Mark Alleyne. He led the team successfully last winter, and can have done nothing wrong this summer having led Gloucestershire to the treble of one day trophies. Alleyne is already assured of a place in the one day squad to Kenya, Pakistan and Sri Lanka, but insists that he is still strongly motivated by the A team position. "I regarded it as a huge honour," explains Alleyne. "We had a successful tour, and I really enjoyed the role. I saw it as an important job in guiding young players. It is crucial for English cricket that they develop and I'd love the opportunity to help do it again."
The other favourite for captaincy is probably Adam Hollioake. He had led Surrey to successive Championships, and he too has a history of successfully leading the England team. It was Hollioake at the helm when England won the one day tournament in Sharjah.
Competition for the captaincy is spiced up in the knowledge that, although David Graveney has suggested that more senior players than normal may be taken on the A tour, it is unlikely that all the candidates for the position will be selected unless they are captain.
Outsiders for the captaincy role include Mark Butcher, who it is often forgotten has already captained England in one Test, against New Zealand in 1999. John Crawley and Mark Ramprakash are other possibilities among England's forgotten middle order hoping to win back a senior team place.
The remainder of the side is likely to include several players with a little Test experience who are either on the fringe of the current side, or are seen as prospects for the near future. Chris Read may well win the gloves, though John Crawley could again be a possibility for this role with a view to grooming him as a like-for-like successor to Alec Stewart. Ian Ward and David Sales are favourites to tour again while the Anglo-Asians Afzaal, Habib and Solanki may be asked fill the middle order spots. Silverwood, Tudor, Franks and Sidebottom are likely seam bowlers, while centrally contracted Chris Schofield is sure to be given the chance to gain more experience with Norhants' Brown as his spin partner.
Schofield was disappointed not to make the main tour, but is aware that time is on his side. "David Graveney rang me to let me know I hadn't been picked and it was a bit of a blow. I'm only 21 though, and I know all the time in the world is on my side. I really enjoyed the two Tests I played, and although my form suffered after I was dropped I came back well towards the end of the season."